10 Ways to Handle Children’s Stress During the Holidays

Every season brings new excitement and with it, opportunities to get off schedule. This can cause children to experience stress around the holidays. Even if you don’t partake in the holidays, there is still this energy in the air that begins near the middle of October and goes straight through until mid-February. It is contagious. Go into any early learning environment and you will be able to experience the feeling of excitement and organized chaos this time of year brings upon us. It is very hard not to come out with a smile on your face and the feeling of exhaustion.

So how do we embrace this excitement and assist our children in dealing with the stress that comes this time of year?

Helping Children Deal with Stress Around the Holidays

1. Play soft music to allow children to slow down their hear rate. If you are an Early Care Professional, you can play this music right before lunch and nap time to help bring children to a restful state of mind. If you are a parent, you might want to find some soft music that you can play on the ride home to help them adjust to the transition.

2. Breathing techniques are also a great way to get children to focus on their breathing and a way to calm their body down.

3. Lotion and hand massages. A little trick I used to use to get children ready for small or large group time was my bottle of hand lotion. As children came to the group, they would get a small drop of lotion to begin rubbing their hands together. Despite going through many bottles of lotion, the children loved it! They transitioned from a very active task to a quiet activity and stayed busy. Make sure you check with parents on allergies before using any type of lotion.

4. Stay as close to routines as possible. Let children know in advance about a change in the routine. Remind then often that there will be a change.

5. Spend more time together. During the holidays events, shopping, and cooking often take over your time. These shouldn’t replace time together. Include children as often as possible, especially the cooking! If they absolutely can’t be included, arrange other times so that you can spend more time interacting. What children really want for the holiday is your attention!

6. TALK and LISTEN! It sounds so simple but sometimes it is the hardest to remember to do. Meal times and car rides are the best but anytime will do.

7. Start a new tradition. It doesn’t have to be connected to any holiday. Pick something simple that you will want to do every year and you and yours can look forward to it rolling back around.

8. Remember to eat healthy! Many foods can make our bodies speed up. Foods with red dye are especially known for making our hearts race. Guess what color is used this time of year? Red. Keep this in mind when children’s behaviors change or become out of the norm.

9. Go outside! Many people don’t take children outside in the winter because they worry about children getting sick but the truth is, you get sick from germs. There are more germs inside because it is so warm and toasty, just how they like it. Get children outside for fresh air and physical activity. They will be healthy and have less need to run inside.

10. When all else fails, blow bubbles. Summer is not the only time you can blow bubbles and everyone loves bubbles. Blowing and watching bubbles are calming. Talk about the different sizes, the colors you see, and how the bubbles float through the air.


Janet Burke is the Director of Child Development Services at ChildSavers, a nonprofit organization that believes that all children can be safe, happy, healthy and ready to learn.  She manages six core programs that support this belief; Child Care Aware of Central Virginia, Child Development Training, Child Development Associate Certificate Program, Virginia Quality Central Region, Voluntary Registration for the Central Region and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. 

Janet joined ChildSavers in 1992 where she has worked as a trainer, supervisor, coordinator, program manager and director. She has been a Master Rater and Master Trainer for Virginia’s Quality and Rating Improvement System since 2007 where she was trained in the first cohort of trainers.  Along with 36 years of experience of working in early care and with early care professionals, she has a Certificate in Early Childhood and a Certificate in Supervisory and Leadership and has taken many other child development and business classes over the years. This includes being trained by the authors for CLASS, Environmental Rating Scale, Here, Now and Down the Road, MyTeachingPartner and DECA.  She holds current certifications.

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